Friday, November 7, 2014

Bleachers and Wild Cub at The Independent in SF – A Concert Review

     Seeing the Bleachers provided a motivation to consider reasons why some concert experiences stand above the others. Even when comparisons are limited to our most enjoyable concerts, last night’s stands up well. But the reasons weren’t immediately apparent. Here are some thoughts as to the factors of a memorable concert experience:
     A. Charisma
     Charisma is certainly a factor. We define charisma as being a “hold” on the audience, so that there is a positive reaction to merely paying attention to the performance of a band member. Every good live band has at least one charismatic member. The charisma comes in different flavors, such as the “voice charisma” of the lead singer in the band Fink. Does Bleachers have a charismatic figure? Undeniably, “Yes.” Jack Antonoff possesses charisma. However, with no intended disrespect, we have been to a number of 2014 concerts in which the “charisma factor” was even stronger.
     B. The Songs
     Of course, the attractiveness of the music is a major factor. Some of the songs performed by the Bleachers were readily recognizable and pulled the audience in very quickly. But others didn’t have the same built-in draw. The first song of the encore was a cover of Steel Train’s “Bullet,” with only Antonoff and his acoustic guitar. Yet, the audience stayed engaged during every song. Still, with no intended disrespect, we have been to a number of 2014 concerts in which we liked the setlist more.
     C. Energy
     The energy of the band is a major factor. In fact, it cannot be overemphasized. Both Bleachers and the opening band (Wild Cub) brought their energy “A” game. Some bands will seemingly build a show around one of their songs. In the summer of 2013, we noted that seeing Imagine Dragon perform “Radioactive,” with theatrics, was a show in itself, so that the other songs could be considered a bonus. Bleachers put too much energy into too many songs for us to have a similar attitude toward last night.
      D. Intangibles
     This is a factor that isn’t always under the control of the band (for example, whether the crowd is respectful of each other?) Last night, this factor was positively represented. Wild Cub paused before its last song and called out the name of a patron, who promptly dropped to one knee and presented a ring to his future wife (she said “Yes.”). One of us bloggers received a first check from a new job and surprised the other with a Bleachers’ t-shirt (pictured in this post). Life is good.
     E. Connection with the Concert-Goers
     This is the factor that set last night apart from other great concert experiences. Antonoff enjoys entertaining, and that’s clearly visible. Equally clearly, he puts thought into what is entertaining. Bleachers were on Conan’s late night show on Wednesday. Sure, they could have played their music and the viewers would have been pleased. But that’s for normal performers. Bleachers are not run-of-the-mill, so they had a “miniature member” for each band member.
      It is not uncommon for a band to talk about its appreciation for its fans. Last night, the “thank you” was convincing and well-received. No one doubted the sincerity. It was endearing and engaging. 

      Bottom Line
     If you mark the Beatles first arrival to the U.S. as the start of the Rock ‘n Roll concert era, there were a number of years in which the audience brought the energy and the band just performed its music. All too often, it’s the opposite now - the band is expected to bring the energy and the attendees listen relatively passively. Last night, it was the combination of band energy and attendee energy that made the evening such a positive one. The concert goers deserve some credit; the Bleachers deserve more.  
This picture was taken by someone else, but we like it because we are in it.

Wild Cub

The Proposal (she said "Yes.")

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